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Report: MLB to Address Nike Uni Fiasco by Start of Next Season

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It turns out that some problems are too big to ignore — even for Rob Manfred.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan broke the story last night that the MLB players’ union has told its members that the major issues with Nike’s new uniforms will be addressed by the start of next season at the latest. Passan, citing a memo that the union distributed to players yesterday, said, “The most prominent modifications include a return to larger lettering on the back of jerseys, remedying mismatched grey tops and bottoms, and addressing the new Nike jersey’s propensity to collect sweat.”

Passan also reported that changes will be made to the pants — including, per the memo, “a return to the higher quality zipper used in 2023.”

The Athletic, which published its own article on the situation soon after Passan’s, reported that pants changes would also include “bringing back the previous tailoring options [and] seam stitch count.”

You probably have a lot of questions (as I do), so let’s shift into Q&A mode:

Have you seen this memo that the union sent out?

No, but of course I’d love to see it. If anyone can help make that happen, you know what to do.

So they’re going to make these changes by the start of next season at the latest. But what’s the earliest it could happen, and what are the chances of it happening at any point this season?

I’ve asked Fanatics about that. No response yet.

Regarding the jerseys, are they going to stick with the new Vapor Premier template and just enlarge the NOB lettering and fix the shade of grey? Or are they going back to the old Majestic fabric and tailoring, including the old positioning of the MLB logo, the old placket breaks, the old sleeve trim, the embroidered patches, the chain-stitching for the Cardinals and Phillies, and so on?

The Athletic‘s article says, “[The union’s memo] is not a promise to return to the uniforms from previous seasons. The Nike Vapor Premier is here to stay, as far as fabric and general jersey design are concerned.” But the basis for that statement isn’t clear, at least to me. They don’t cite a source or rationale for it. I’ve asked Fanatics if they can clarify what these changes will mean going forward.

What’s this about the zipper?

Good question! We were told over and over that the pants are the same fabric as last year, but I didn’t hear anything about the zipper being changed, nor did I hear any player complaints about that. Again, I’ve asked Fanatics.

Will the pants go back to the old belt loops?

You can probably guess my response. (Hint: Rhymes with “I’ve asked Fanatics.”)

Speaking of the pants, what does “bringing back the previous tailoring options” mean?

In the past, players had a wide range of pant-customization options, so they could ask for the pants to be roomier in the thigh, or flared at the cuff, or whatever. Those options were scaled back this season, and that became a major point of contention for many players. Pitchers, in particular, didn’t like the more limited range of customizations and griped about the resulting fit. One pitcher — Seattle’s Bryce Miller — was so unhappy with the fit of his City Connect pants that he ended up wearing a bat boy’s pants instead.

And what about restoring the “seam stitch count”?

Remember when Tigers outfielder Riley Greene’s right pant leg literally came apart at the seams as he slid into home plate a few weeks ago? At the time, I wrote:

While the pants fabric hasn’t changed this year, the tailoring specs for the pants have changed — that’s why the belt loops are different, for example. It’s possible that other production specs were also changed, including the thread being used on the seams and/or the sewing specs (i.e., the number of stitches per inch).

Looks like I was right about the sewing specs.

Will we ever know whose fault this was?

As I’ve been saying all along, the facts of the situation have clearly pointed to Nike being responsible. The union apparently agrees, because their memo blames Nike and praises Fanatics. Quoting from Passan’s report:

“This has been entirely a Nike issue,” the memo to players read. “At its core, what has happened here is that Nike was innovating something that didn’t need to be innovated.”

The union also absolved Fanatics, the manufacturer of the uniform that has received the majority of public scorn for the uniform mess, saying the company “recognizes the vital importance of soliciting Player feedback, obtaining Player buy-in and not being afraid to have difficult conversations about jerseys or trading cards. Our hope is that, moving forward, Nike will take a similar approach.”

The Athletic‘s article quoted this additional passage from the union’s memo:

As many of you know, concern with Nike changes is not new. We cautioned Nike against various changes when they previewed them in 2022, particularly regarding pants. MLB had been, and has been, aware of our concerns as well. Unfortunately, until recently, Nike’s position has essentially boiled down to — ‘nothing to see here, Players will need to adjust.’”

It’s worth noting that the union has an equity stake in Fanatics. But it’s also worth noting that dozens if not hundreds of the union’s players have endorsement deals with Nike, so it’s surprising that the union would be so swoosh-critical. Speaking of which: It would be interesting to go back to all those Nike-affiliated players who dutifully read scripted comments praising the new uniforms during spring training — guys like Ronald Acuña Jr. and Jason Heyward — and see what they think about how all of this has unfolded.

You keep mentioning the union’s memo, but has MLB said anything?

No. They declined to comment to Passan and to The Athletic (and of course they won’t talk to me). So for now, we have these timeless words of wisdom about the new uniforms from Rob Manfred: “I think after people wear them a little bit, they are going to be very popular.”

What do you think was the straw that finally broke Manfred’s back?

I don’t know. But on Saturday evening, I tweeted this:

My tweets typically get a few dozen or, at most, a few hundred likes. But as you can see, this one got over 4,600, so it must have been picked up and embedded in a high-traffic story somewhere. I want to make it clear that I’m not saying my tweet is what pushed things over the edge. But when something I post gains that much traction, that’s a sign, an indicator, that this story has reached a critical mass. I’m sure there were other tweets from other people gaining even more traction. And cumulatively, it all became too much to ignore.

What am I supposed to do with this jersey I just bought that’s now a lame duck? And what are stores gonna do with all their lame-duck jerseys?

As always, the retail considerations are not Uni Watch’s concern. Let’s please stick to the on-field implications. Thanks!

Speaking of which: The Rays are scheduled to unveil their City Connect uniform today (following a weekend leak). I’ll have coverage of that soon after the design goes live.



Too Good for the Ticker

I’d say the awesomeness of this item pretty much speaks for itself, no?

(Big thanks to Trevor Williams for this one.)



Mascot Watch

Life imitates art.

Comments (54)

    My hope — foolish as it is — is that they will correct the placket/spooning/name split issue. I suspect that they might not, but, for many teams (such as the Mets and Dodgers), the current jerseys look especially stupid.

    Interestingly, the replica jerseys fix the split despite having the silly spooning — see this example from Reddit — link

    The same seems to be true of Dodger replica jerseys, not just Met ones. I’d hope that Nike would apply this same split-name fix — note the “M” now touches the orange line, and the “e” has an orange line run through it, but I find this MUCH less bad than the on-field split.

    I wonder if the replicas were designed after the original jerseys’ splits were obviously too ugly but were too far into production to be changed.

    I agree. The former plackette size needs to be restored. And return proper piping to the sleeves so jerseys don’t look like glorified golf shirts.

    I’ve sat here for a few minutes trying to come up with a witty comment, but I can’t. The title of the article says it all. “Finally.” And to see that Nike was aware of the players’ issues with the uniform templates as far back as 2022 and kept pushing the “We designed these after much feedback” line is really damning.

    Pitch clocks. Living ghost runners. 17 Wild Cards per League. Eliminating a quarter of MiLB clubs. Making drastic uniform changes solely based on the retail side. Actively enabling John Fisher to run his club into the ground for “reasons.”

    Hell of a legacy you got there, Rob.

    The players practically forced MLB to add the pitch clock. 3+ hours for a 9-inning game is ridiculous and does nothing to keep current fans or win new fans. You’re right on about the other stuff.

    The half hour saved does a lot to keep me interested. Batters wasting time fixing batting gloves isn’t exactly action packed.

    Pitch clock was a good move, and in fact something that umpires could always have enforced if they wanted to, they have control over pace of play.
    Just about everything else has been awful, especially the ghost runners. Their very existence makes extra innings games feel more like NHL OT rules as far as how they should count in the standings.

    something that umpires could always have enforced if they wanted to, they have control over pace of play
    That’s one of my biggest pet peeves: unenforced rules.
    While the pitch clock does take the guesswork (is the ump shaving off a second for this pitcher but not the other?) out of it, it seems like another piece of unnecessary technology. But, as long as it works, I’ll give credit to Manfred for his one good idea.

    Yep, count me among the many in favor of the pitch clock. I don’t hate the runner on second in extra innings, but I realize I’m in the minority on that one.

    I absolutely love baseball. I follow a lot of sports but if you told me I could only follow 1 for the rest of my life, I’d choose baseball, without having to think about it for a second. This past winter, after the first ever pitch clock season, I watched a fair amount of Dominican winter ball, which still lacks a pitch clock. It was almost unwatchable. The pitch clock has been a phenomenal change.

    Times change. Tastes change. Also, the game had changed to become slower. All the clock did was forcibly move the game times back to on part with what it was in the 80s and prior. So for all the purists who want to go on about the back in my day everything was better stuff, you’re right in this case, it was. That’s why we had to put a pitch clock in to make sure it went back to how it was “back in the day.”

    we’ll see. since “my day” players got better. pitching requires maximum effort on every pitch, swinging does not. the pitch clock favors the batter and puts the pitchers at an increased injury risk. don’t care if experiments on lower levels didn’t show it, those guys are not pitching like pitchers in the show because they aren’t in the show. same with the guys pitching quickly in “my day”, it’s not the same as it is today. umpire’s discretion actually seems more appropriate than a clock.

    Wow! What an awesome piece of memorabilia! It would be cool to see an item like that brought back.

    “This has been entirely a Nike issue… At its core, what has happened here is that Nike was innovating something that didn’t need to be innovated.”
    “As many of you know, concern with Nike changes is not new. We cautioned Nike against various changes when they previewed them in 2022, particularly regarding pants. MLB had been, and has been, aware of our concerns as well. Unfortunately, until recently, Nike’s position has essentially boiled down to — ‘nothing to see here, Players will need to adjust.’”
    Those two quotes seem to perfectly summarize the situation with Nike, across all sports. In short; We are changing this part of the uniform which nobody thinks needs to be changed, and even though we work for you, you just have to deal with this crappy product we are going to give you.

    Saw the reactions to this coming in in realtime last night on various message boards and comment threads and it was hilarious to me just how many Nike fanboys _still_ decided it was Fanatics “sabotaging” Nike somehow.

    This is merely late confirmation, but I went to a weekend series and a couple of the issues were even more troubling in person. From even good seats, NOBs were illegible for all but the closest players. Further, the sweaty grays on pitchers from first pitch was just gross.

    I saw the Twins last week in person wearing their Twin Cities alternates. It was quite odd how on a nearby video screen they looked like the cream intended, but in person the uniforms had a real yellowish hue. On a different topic, the Twins NOBs in their custom font don’t look terribly smaller.

    I wonder if the Twins made their NOBs smaller when they introduced the new uni set in 2023 knowing that the 2024 changes were coming. It’s probably why it looks well integrated instead of looking like a knockoff version of the jerseys, like other teams have.

    This point kind of gets lost in the shuffle a bit, but if I were someone who worked my ass off since I was a kid to make it to the majors, I want people to see my last name on the back of my jersey. Glad the lettering on the back is among the adjustments being made.

    Honestly, it’s a bit like Nike invented a bunch of problems so that they can present themselves as problem solvers later on. It’s just befuddling.

    if I were someone who worked my ass off since I was a kid to make it to the majors, I want people to see my last name on the back of my jersey.

    Then you’d better not play for that rinky-dink operation called the New York Yankees.

    Something-something, front of the jersey not the back of the jersey, something-something.

    Are the Red Sox (1/2) and the Yankees the only teams left that don’t have names on their jerseys? When I was growing up I remember the SF Giants went the Red Sox route with no names on the home but at some point, they put them on there. I love it, I wish no one had names on the jerseys anymore. Not even a “name on the front, not on the back that matters,” thing, I just think it looks better. People (including me) have clunky last names to put on a shirt, and can look silly.

    The mariners on their cream alternates do not have names on the back. Mariners wore those for the first time yesterday. Not sure what was wrong but they didn’t look like they did last year. Something was wrong with the numbers.

    I’m a Red Sox fan, and it doesn’t bother me that they (and other teams, obviously) don’t put the player names on the back of some or all of their jerseys, but if the name is going to be there, there’s no point making it illegible.

    And I think there are plenty of reasons not driven by ego to be excited to see your last name on the back of a pro sports jersey.

    I think there are plenty of reasons not driven by ego to be excited to see your last name on the back of a pro sports jersey.

    I don’t think any player can’t see his own name on his own jersey. Your original point was about *other* people being able to see it.

    To be clear, I dislike the new smaller lettering as much as you apparently do. I just don’t think “We should change it back so a player can feel good about fans seeing his name” is particularly high on the list of reasons to make the change.

    I think I wasn’t being super clear in my initial comment, which has lead to a bit of a debate between two of us who (I think) think the same thing. All I was saying: I think players are justified in being annoyed at the lettering being so small and cheap looking.

    My prediction based on what I read, what the major issues are, and knowing how sports merchandising companies work, the changes will be 90% involving the pants with minimal to the jerseys, here’s why.

    1. From a comfort and functionality standpoint, the pants have been a MUCH bigger issue. Whatever you don’t like about the jersey’s, they’re not literally falling apart on the field like the pants are. That’s actually a very serious issue. Additionally, I know, for a act that the jersey can be easily tailored (I got mine taken in), so it seems the very unique pants tailoring is really the major comfort issue. And of course, the mismatched greys look amateurish at best.

    2. While they’ll change the nameplates, they’re not going to want to go too far in changing the jersey let alone bringing back the old template. The reason being, they’ve made a big show out of the Vapor Premier jerseys from a retail standpoint. Many people buying those are willing to spend the money because it’s “what the players wear.” If Nike/MLB changes anything dramatic after only a year of that template, they’re going to have a lot of pissed off merch buyers and discourage buying big ticket merch in the future. This isn’t an issue with the pants of course because the pants are not for retail sale.

    If this, or any major uniform story, broke in June or later…would Paul made a cameo to report on it or is he truly retiring from the uni-verse?

    If this story had broken in June, Phil would have covered it, just like he’ll cover everything else after I retire from Uni Watch.

    It’s possible that I may make v-e-r-y occasional cameos if Phil is sick or otherwise unavailable. But I will not reappear just to cover a big story. The whole point of getting off the hamster wheel is so I don’t have the news cycle dictating my life anymore.

    Case in point: Last night I thought I was gonna make some popcorn and watch a movie. Instead, I spent a couple of hours working on today’s lede after Jeff Passan’s story broke. That’s OK — it’s my job. But in a few more weeks it won’t be my job anymore, and I’ll be able to watch that movie.

    I’ve seen several comments like this over the past several months and it always befuddles me. Phil has done plenty of journalistic pieces along with his think pieces and his lighter fare, and he can deep dive with the best of them. And he did study journalism.
    While Paul will be missed and Phil will be different, Uni Watch will remain an excellent place to go, and in some ways it will be as if nothing changed.

    I’m more concerned what that Jimmer fellow is going to do to the site. ; )

    While retail considerations are not important here usually, they may have had an influence on these and future decisions that affect what is worn on the field. For example, could retail jersey sales have tanked to the point where MLB decided to finally do something? Were they reluctant due to the anger it will cause in somebody who paid $500 for a polyester shirt that will no longer be accurate?

    That is a fair point, while Paul rightfully doesn’t take into account retail considerations when reporting about the actual on field important stuff, retail is increasingly running the show when it comes to uniform design. So while the right approach from a uniform analysis is to not take retail into account, I am positive Nike and the leagues take retail into account. It could very much be the case that people buying authentic jerseys in retail do not like what they are buying. I am doubting it is the case here, but in the future I could see that coming into play.

    Likewise, I wonder if they are not publicizing the changes coming in 2025 to not hurt sales even further & have a bunch of unsold merchandise leftover.

    The Braves and Blue Jays have had the smaller player names for a few years and they are one-color, so they bear the new template without much difference. However, this doesn’t address the different shade of grey or the bad tailoring.

    This is why we in this uni community do what we do; change for the better is possible when fans voice their opinions, and back them up financially.

    As a side note, as soon as I read this news and thought, “I wonder what will Fanatics will do with all the flawed 2024 uniforms (particularly jerseys) once they’re finally replaced?”, I immediately answered it with, “Fanatics jersey cards, of course.” So for better or worse, I’m sure Fanatics’ bottom line will be fine in the end.

    Paul – I was drawn to the framed labels tags behind your cat. I’d love to see that entire work of art!

    Nike was innovating something that didn’t need to be innovated

    “Just Do It…whether it needs to be done or not.”

    Just want to say how much I have appreciated your coverage about this issue. I feel like a freak having cared so much about the uniform changes, but as a baseball purist, the aesthetic being messed with has bummed me out tremendously. I’m hopeful things can get back to normal, but with Nike at the helm still, who knows.

    Between this and now *2* cycles of botched uniform redesigns in over a decade in the NFL, at what point does Nike’s reputation take a hit?

    I’d say it has already, at least among certain groups. *cough cough*
    I’d go as far as to say Nike should get out of the pro-sports (MLB, at least) uni game. Didn’t they kind of get MLB by default anyway, after UA reneged? Across the 3 pro sports they control, the uniforms have gotten demonstrably worse, with baseball now going beyond just poor aesthetic decisions.

    Mariners 2023 Creams

    Mariners 2024 Creams

    It appears that they made the blue and yellow borders much thinner in 2024, to the point that, at times, the numbers on the back lose the yellow highlight and looked just blue.

    On a side note, Leo Rivas, long time minor leaguer had his debut yesterday. Picture I selected shows the MLB Debut Patch on his uni.

    I am curious how they’ll address the sweat-drenched issue without making some sort of adjustment to the Vapor Premier fabric… adding thickness, coating with a space-age polymer or non-nutritive cereal varnish…

    “Nike was innovating something that didn’t need to be innovated.” That sums up the entire past quarter-century of sports aesthetics. Also, crazy that the union just flat-out called out Nike like that.

    I wonder if the “4+1” rule will be scrapped. Wasn’t that a Nike rule related to the new uniforms? I don’t think teams need more than 5 uniforms but better alternates were ditched in favor of Sh**y Connect

    Thank you MLBPA for stepping up to the plate while the MLB itself remains quiet. I wonder what will be adjusted precisely (I hope the overall quality of the uniforms and the difference in grey pants and jerseys first) but I am sure Paul will let us know.

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